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Elsa and I made our bi-annual visit to the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician last week.
The doc was floored by Elsa’s progress. And she says it’s clear I have a somewhat different set of challenges on my hands now.
Last year, I had a kid with ADHD (severe) and sensory issues who was probably going to need special ed services and who was going to struggle in a “regular” school environment because should could not self-regulate and had no impulse control. Public school was probably the way to go, because the services were funded by the state and we were really gonna need those.
NOW, I have a kid with ADHD (moderate?) and sensory issues who is pretty good at self-regulation, and who can now be identified as gifted. As a result, she may struggle in a “regular” school environment because she is going to be bored stiff. Public school is probably NOT a good way to go, because she needs some accommodations but won’t qualify for services, and (per the pediatrician) she really needs to be surrounded by smart kids and in an academically rigorous program.
Holy cow. That is a much more fun challenge to address. And I’ve been doing a bunch of reading to see what I can learn. Here’s the most striking thing so far, from a paper about giftedness in the adopted population:
“Gifted children have emotional as well as cognitive needs that vary from the norm. They are more intense, sensitive, perfectionistic, easily frustrated, questioning of authority, and reactive to criticism than their average peers.”
Oh my – that’s Elsa to a T! She is Every Single Thing in that description.
So now, I gotta find the right school.
And also figure out how to pay for it.
It feels like forever since the hellstorm of last spring and summer (well, also the fall. and the winter).
We have come a long, LONG way.
Elsa is doing astoundingly, amazingly, wonderfully well. Her teachers (same as last year, thank goodness) say she is a new child. I have to agree.
We have none – NONE of the explosive traumatic meltdowns anymore. This drama and crisis is gone. The heartache and fear is gone. She is not on any meds. She goes to OT twice a week, and takes fish oil. And she has an environment at home now in which she is cherished, given room to be herself, accommodated for her differences and sensitivities.
She gets lots of second chances. Because she needs them.
And guess what? She TAKES them – and is so happy to be able to be GOOD, and to comply with expectations. She’s longer living in a hyper-controlled environment where her presence was perceived as a threat, and where she was consistently treated as The Problem.
Sure, we have the occasional crying fit and the defiant moment. She still has ADHD and she still has SPD. But I’m telling you, there have been maybe two times since we moved back home (in May) when I’ve seen her really lose it.
And those times were predictable (she was either sick or ridiculously tired – in both cases, I saw it coming, but either didn’t have the energy or ability to prevent it). She’s much MUCH more in control of her impulses, she’s more able to communicate her frustrations, and she’s learned how to control herself to a huge degree.
She back to her sunny, energetic, strong-willed, hilarious, sensitive, loving self.
Thank you God.
Last night was Parents Nights at Elsa’s preschool.
Posted in the hallway outside her classroom were each child’s “All About Me…” project – the first project of the school year. I am absolutely in love with Elsa’s.
Here it is. (Don’t miss the closeups below, because you really need to see that pose and read the text).
Best line: My favorite colors are Magenta and Rainbow.
That’s my girl.
Look at that.
If there was ever one photo that captured Elsa’s essence, it is this one. She is bold, fearless, bursting with enthusiasm and unbridled joy.
I am head-over-heels for this child. She truly takes my breath away.
Dear God, please let me walk through the world just a little bit more like Elsa does.
Happy birthday to my little box of sunshine, the greatest gift in my life.
A few more thoughts on my desire to see more black kids in Elsa’s classroom (as opposed to being spread out among the three pre-K classrooms).
I had a lightbulb moment when I talked to the Head of School.
He said, basically, that it would take a huge effort to make it happen, and it would cause a LOT of controversy.
I had given him all my reasoning (as described in my follow-up letter), and — after a fair bit of prodding, extracted his personal opinion (based on the research out there and his own research for his doctorate in Education) that clustering children of color together is better for them.
But then he said: we are going to have to go to the mat on this one.
I was feeling really dense, and then he said: the white parents won’t like it.
And I sat there, feeling even more dense.
Somehow managing not to notice I was being slow, he continued: they are paying 25 grand a year for diversity. And so they want Elsa (or someone who looks like her) in their child’s class. They won’t be happy with an all-white class.
I keep going back to this thought, because it is so obvious. But I was so oblivious. Of COURSE they want a black kid in their child’s classroom. Diversity is hard to find in our very white homogeneous county. And the more kids of color you can put in a predominantly white classroom, the better.
Except it’s not better for the kids of color. At all.
So who do they satisfy? The majority of the parents, who have white kids at the school and want to see diversity in their classroom? Or the minority of parents, who have kids of color who would be better served by all being in the same classroom?
It’s a sticky wicket.
If I had a white kid, I’d want kids of color in my kid’s class. But then again, I would never even have considered whether it was similarly beneficial (or even detrimental) to the minority kids to be spread out to satisfy this desire.
Yet another sign of my white privilege – never crossed my mind.
But now I’m thinking – I totally should go to the mat. I am white. The other white parents will have a harder time dismissing me as having a racial agenda.
And I can relate to them. Right?
Or am I stirring up unnecessary controversy?
just sent this off to the new(ish) Head of School. had a tête-à-tête with him last week, and was very impressed. he’s an African American man with a
Masters Doctorate in Education and he knows his shit. we touched on this very possibly inflammatory topic and he asked me to send him an email. so i did.
this could get interesting…
Hi [Head of School],
Thanks again for your time on Thursday morning – it was great to get to chat in person and hear your thoughts about [the school]‘s future.
I wanted to reiterate my concerns and thoughts regarding children of color and their classroom assignments in the [pre-k/k] program.
To be sure, it is a benefit to white children to have children of color in the classrooms. This is one form of the diversity that parents are looking for when they bring their children to [the school]. However, common sense dictates (and I believe research confirms) that clustering children of color together is better for them. They do not take on the burden of being the representative for an entire group or race, they do not feel conspicuous, they have others with whom they share experience, and they feel more safe and “normal”.
Especially in a place like [our whitey-white county], not only is it critical for children of color to have teachers who look like them, it’s vital that they have peers who look like them. And a critical mass of peers is necessary, not a token one or two. Put simply, having six or seven other black kids in a class is clearly a different, and better, experience for a black child than being one of only two or three.
Sadly, there are not enough children of color in the [school] community to form critical mass in more than one classroom (an issue to tackle in another email…)
So the question becomes this: will [the school] cluster children of color together in one [pre-k/k] classroom to best serve those children, or will the school distribute them throughout the three classrooms, to best serve the majority who want diversity?
I feel strongly that the former is the right thing to do. These kids have enough of a burden to carry; we should not ask them to sacrifice their comfort and quality of their educational experience to benefit others.
I hope you agree, though I do understand this topic is controversial at best, and it may be difficult for you to take a public position on it.
Please let me know what I can do to help and advocate for our children of color in the [pre-k/k] program.
On this day, four years ago, Elsa and I arrived at San Francisco International airport.
My little box of sunshine and I have been family for four years now.
I am so blessed.
And, as is now tradition, I’m sharing the photo montage I submitted to Ethiopia with my annual report.